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Using the Service Desk as a Single Point of Contact

Extending the IT service desk to handle more than just IT calls will net real business benefit, writes ITSMWatch columnist George Spafford of Pepperweed Consulting.
Jul 10, 2009

George Spafford

In today’s economy, IT needs to constantly look for opportunities to provide value to the organization. As organizations and their stakeholders try to adapt to times of rapid change, they must streamline how staff can request information and services. IT organizations that have matured their service desk capabilities may have an opportunity to provide much needed communication and workflow capabilities to the organization as a whole so employees have a single point of contact for all their needs.

When someone joins an organization, one of the steep learning curves is understanding who to call for what. There will likely be separate contact information for IT, facilities, HR, business processes and so on. Moreover, there is likely ambiguity about how to escalate requests, the requests themselves are informally managed and so on. The result is that there are inefficiencies in the communication as well as elevated costs, employee frustrations and negative impacts to the business.

The IT concepts of deviations from standard operation (incidents), incidents with unknown root causes (problems), and the need to request information and services (service requests) are all directly applicable to the business overall. Any business department and business process have the need to be supported by effective and efficient incident, problem and service request management. In fact, all of the ITSM processes can be applied to the business, especially change management, but let’s focus on the service desk specifically for now.

The IT service desk can serve as the single point of contact for all requests in the organization when supported by the correct processes and automation. This approach makes logical sense because a properly implemented service desk can bring many benefits including:

Reduced Confusion - With a shared services desk, there can be a single phone number, email address and website for employees to contact for help. For large organizations, ones that are distributed, business growing via mergers and acquisitions, this can be a big problem. The business can be very confused about where to go for help. A single point of contact for most of what they need that supports them doing their jobs can greatly simplify things, reduce stress and improve productivity.

Improved Communications - Verbal and written interactions are skills and employees staffing the service desk can listen, be empathetic and translate what the caller is saying into requirements that can be evaluated and addressed in the manner that makes the best business sense. Moreover, there are plenty of folks who are great at their job but have poor people skills. A shared service desk can help address this.

Minimized Interruptions - By going to a centralized group, interruptions to staff can be controlled. Without effective management, employees are contacted and must stop what they are working on, address the caller’s needs and then try to get back to what they were doing. These switching costs negatively impact productivity. For example, an eight hour day with four one hour calls and the inefficient switching costs means that planned work had less than four hours to be worked on―maybe only three.

Metrics - Reports can be generated based on calls that identify the types of requests, how long the ticket was open and so on. These metrics can be used for continuous process improvement, charge backs, and other needs.

Timeliness - Help ensure that calls are escalated when not addressed in a timely manner. This reduces frustrations associated with “lost” requests, people on vacation and work stalling, and so on.

Best Practice, Spafford, service desk

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